An important part of selecting a business school is evaluating it from many angles. An especially important perspective is the alumni angle and with today’s robust social networking tools, you can do first hand research that creates a network for you too. LinkedIn is especially useful for prospective applicants and it is important to have a networking plan so you are effective and efficient with your research. Here are some strategies and tips on how to use LinkedIn for alumni networking.
How to approach alumni
Remember that alumni groups may well represent the best opportunities for networking to learn about a particular career or school.
Networking on LinkedIn or anywhere else builds on getting to know people. An effective starting point is to find similar interests or experiences in your respective professional careers and build the introduction around the commonalities. Many alumni will also respond warmly to prospective applicants.
If you are exploring a career in a new function or industry it helps to ask specific questions about where they are in their career, how they got there. Ask what tips they wish someone had shared with them when they were starting out. Then after talking about the career path, it is easier to understand how well a particular business school prepared them for this. It becomes clearer how the school choice relates to the career plan.
I have heard of students contacting alumni with strong demands or with very poor language like they were sending text messages with friends (lol). The bottom line is to be yourself and genuine, but also polite and respectful. Be straightforward, demand nothing and appreciate the responses. When a relationship builds, you can gain deeper insights into a program.
- Never pretend to be who you are not – like inflating your qualifications.
- Never share too much information – like your complete resume and academic statistics.
- Be courteous and polite.
Ask alumni smart questions
Don’t ask them what your chances of admission are – they don’t know. Don’t ask them for advice – they don’t know you and can’t in the course of a few email exchanges. Ask them for their experiences instead. Draw your own conclusions based on their stories. Ask what their plans were, how they changed, how they were surprised and what satisfied them about their program. Ask how their program prepared them for the first post degree job, and how it didn’t. Ask about their disappointments and if they think the causes of disappointment could affect future students.
Build your network
These are the kinds of questions that will elicit a good dialogue and help you develop strong insight into a program. After any feedback or input you get from an alum, say thank you. Also ask them who else they recommend you talk to and if they would facilitate an introduction. That will increase your chance of successfully talking with another graduate.
Keep the alumni you talk to updated about your application status. Let them know if you get admitted, then if you decide to attend also. This will help them realize the good feelings that come from supporting their school and helping you. They also become a stronger node in your own network and in the future you may have more interaction. This time it will be based on a history of interaction, and not a first time contact.
If you would like to practice reaching out to alumni or test out your initial request for contact, reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’ll give you feedback about your approach.
You might also like the earlier post: 10 ways to use LinkedIn to boost your MBA applications